Home » Book Review » Digital Fortress

Digital Fortress


by Dan Brown

published 1998

First off, I just want to take a moment to say you all of you beautiful WordPress people – I love you.  All of you are so friendly and encouraging, and even when we disagree we have such good conversations.  You all make me love book blogging.  I post all of these same posts over on my old book blog on tumblr, and yesterday’s Harry Potter post caused another tumblrer to go a bit ballistic on me – they created a counter-post explaining how everything I said was wrong, and they did it all while calling me names and using clever gifs to point out how stupid I am, and how I’ve obviously never actually read the Harry Potter books (because I have so much spare time to make posts about books I haven’t read!).  And, you know, it’s the internet so that was their prerogative, but still.  It just felt like we could have had a really engaging conversation about our two differing opinions, but instead the other poster started out by telling me that I’m a “f*ing idiot” who has never read the books and who is stupid and couldn’t understand the books even if I did read them.  When I created a post (because actually this wasn’t the only person to respond, they were just the most virulent) simply saying that it’s my blog and I can have my opinion, and others are welcome to disagree but shouldn’t expect me to engage with them if they start out by name-calling, they reposted it and said that I was just a whiny whiner who expects people to kiss my ass and only listen to opinions the same as mine.  All of this has made me feel very sad about book blogging today.

So anyway, the point is, I love hearing from all of you, and love hearing what you think, even when you disagree.  And I especially love the way that we can have great conversations without calling each other stupid idiots.  Thanks for listening to me whine.  You guys are great.

Okay!  Digital Fortress!  This book was actually reviewed by my blogging friend Sophie a while back.  Here’s the ironic thing – I wrote it down when she reviewed it, but I can’t remember anything she said about – I can’t even remember whether or not she liked it!  So I’m going to write my review, and then read hers before closing to see if there is anything awesome I missed!

I’ve never read a book by Dan Brown, and it was actually mildly funny to me that I got this book and it says that it’s the author of The Da Vinci Code, which I’ve never gotten around to reading (whoops).  So I came into this book without any real preconceived ideas of what to expect, especially since I couldn’t remember what it was in Sophie’s review that made me want to read it in the first place!

The book, set in its current time (so late 90’s), is actually about a top-secret and little-known branch of the American government…  the NSA.  (It was actually quite intriguing to read a story from before 9/11, before Snowden, before anyone really know what the NSA was all about.)  Susan is a cryptographer, and she works in a secret-secret department with a huge computer that reads every email, deciphering codes as it goes.  Our story begins because someone has created an unbreakable code, which could destroy the NSA’s ability to uncover secret information before it happens.

There was a lot going on in this book.  The story was gripping and fast-paced.  Such a delight to read a third-person narrative!  Susan is a fantastic protagonist.  She’s incredibly intelligent, brilliant at her job, and a complex individual. She’s also deeply in love with her fiancee, David, who spends most of the book overseas trying to find another piece to the unbreakable code.

Cons for me –

  • lot of killing.  Nothing dreadfully gruesome, but, let’s face it, lots of people die.  Almost everyone, really.  I’m not really a big fan of bloodbaths, and some of the people were killed for fairly minor reasons.  It was hard to get emotionally attached to anyone when I was afraid they would be dead in the next chapter.
  • While I loved the third-person narrative, Brown tends to jump perspectives a lot, and without really any warning.  So at one point we could be following one person’s thoughts, and then we switch to another person in the next sentence.  At times, it made the narrative a bit disjointed because of that little jolt that comes when you find yourself thinking, “Wait, who is ‘he’ exactly??”
  • Language/a bit of sex – nothing crazy, and nothing that really detracted from the reading for me, but I’m throwing it out there.  One scene in particular with a prostitute getting it on with her customer…  all just a set-up so we could kill them in the next scene…  it felt weird.  Definitely not a G-rated book.

Pros –

  • Short chapters.  I have a serious love/hate relationship with short chapters, because I can’t resist them.  Some of Brown’s chapters were only a paragraph or two long.  It’s like candy.  I couldn’t stop.
  • Susan.  I just really liked her.  I liked how she was strong, independent, and intelligent, but still very womanly.
  • PLOT TWISTS oh my gosh this was a great book for suddenly flipping everything upside-down.  Loved it.

All in all, this was a great read.  It was fast, exciting, and engaging.  It was the first book in a long time that I stayed up past midnight, elbowing my husband to make him stop snoring, just to finish it.  I literally could not go to sleep until I found out what happened.  An easy 4/5, and I’ll be looking for some more works by Dan Brown soon.

And hey – I just reread Sophie’s review (so much more coherent than mine lol) – and she liked it, too. So that’s two opinions – you definitely should give it a whirl.  ;-)

7 thoughts on “Digital Fortress

  1. What??? You liked a Dan Brown book?? Why, you must be a *******!!!

    Just kiddin’. :) I’m so sorry to hear about your experiences – that’s why I like WordPress too, everyone seems to try to be nice to each other even when they disagree. I review on Amazon and get heaps of abuse all the time, usually from fans when I’ve committed the ultimate crime of not liking a book they love. Only today I was told that my review of A Fine Balance ‘disqualifies me as a good reader’ and the person will therefore go on to read all the other books I’ve given negative reviews too on the grounds that they must be good. The idea of him ploughing through some really bad books does make me chuckle though! I thought I might send him a list… And my review of a book about Stonewall Jackson seems to have reignited the American Civil War – sorry ’bout that, America. I always return to the blog for a bit of sanity and good-natured company.

    PS Snape’s lovely, by the way. I can’t disagree with your points, but I think you’ve forgotten the most important one – he’s played by the utterly yumptious Alan Rickman! I could forgive that man anything…


    • I guess I’ve just gotten a bit spoiled with having only civil conversations about books. I was also blown away by how someone could spend so much spite and tell me I deserved it for “posting hate”… Apparently posting hate about a real person because that real person doesn’t like a fictional person doesn’t count. Ah well.

      And I have to give you some credit for the Alan Rickman thing! Is there any movie in which he isn’t delicious?! However, I’ve never been able to get into the movies, so I’ve missed out on that Snape perspective. Someone else (anonymously) sent me a link to an article that will supposedly explain who Snape is psychologically so I can understand how wrong I am, but at least they were polite so I will probably give it a read.

      And what in the world are people arguing about over your Stonewall Jackson review?! I quite enjoyed it…actually, I think that book went on my nonfiction tbr.

      Ah, the internet! Such a delightfully terrifying place!


      • Haha! I’m afraid Harry Potter seems to attract some fairly extreme fan worship! The Stonewall Jackson controversy started with one person taking exception to me expressing admiration of him, on the grounds that he was a slave-owner. I tried explaining that I don’t really judge people of 150 years ago by the same standards as today, and that the fact that I thought he was an inspirational military leader isn’t an endorsement of his views. But then other people chipped in and it became a re-run of the arguments of the war. I dropped out a week or so ago, but it’s still going on – thousands upon thousands of words arguing over what the war was about and who was right. Oh, dear! So if the Second Civil War starts soon, I fear it will be my fault…


  2. Oh man. I’m so mad at how other people reacted to your post, Sarah! :( This and the author-stalking-blogger incident just made me realize how scary the Internet still is, with its ability to provide anonymity, take away that anonymity, and de-humanize online personalities. And topics that garner a large amount of fans like HP are bound to bring in very extreme responses. I’m just glad that you’re still blogging and having fun!

    YES to the plot twists! The only good thing about me being somewhat forgetful and easily-distracted is that I don’t even remember some of the twists in Digital Fortress anymore (as well as every other book with lots of plot twists), so rereading it is always a surprise.

    My favorite Dan Brown book is Deception Point, so if you’re up for reading another Dan Brown book sometime in the future, you should give that one a try too! :)


    • I suppose bad experiences make me a stronger person, right?? But it is scary that not only can someone say cruel things with no repercussion, but that my feelings can be hurt by that total stranger. Being told you’re stupid doesn’t really hurt that much less just because you can’t see the face saying it to you. Ah well.

      As for Dan Brown, I actually may have to do an addendum post… I totally forgot to talk about how intriguing it was to think about that line between government protection and personal freedoms. While his book doesn’t really make a strong stand, it’s definitely a big talking point for the book that I definitely meant to mention lol.

      I added the rest of his books to the good ole million-mile long tbr, so I’m sure I’ll get to it someday!


  3. Pingback: Deception Point | The Aroma of Books

  4. Pingback: Rearview Mirror: February 2015 | The Aroma of Books

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